Prohibition–a nationwide ban on the production, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages–went into effect on October 28, 1919. One hundred years later, a robust U.S. alcohol industry employs about one million Americans. And consumer preferences for locally produced craft beers are fueling explosive job growth in U.S. breweries. Brewery-related job postings on ZipRecruiter more than doubled between 2017 and 2018, and are on track for another strong year in 2019.
This is an exceptional economic story. While in the rest of the economy, there is a trend towards establishments consolidating and big mega-companies gobbling up smaller ones, the number of breweries has expanded six-fold since 2008. And while the U.S. economy broadly transitions from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, the alcohol industry is one place where job growth in manufacturing outpaces that in retail by a factor of eight.
Overall, the alcohol industry employs people across four sectors: manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, and leisure and hospitality. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, taverns, pubs, and bars are the largest employers in the industry, with about 400,000 staff on payrolls. Alcoholic beverage wholesalers are next, with about 200,000. Historically, retailers (beer, wine and liquor stores) have been the third-largest employers, with about 160,000 staff. But alcoholic beverage manufacturers (breweries, wineries, and distilleries) overtook retailers a few months ago, and continue to experience rapid job growth.
In just ten years, employment at breweries, wineries, and distilleries has grown 139%, far faster than total employment economy-wide, which has grown 16%. Employment at bars and alcohol stores, by contrast, grew at about the same pace as employment overall (15% and 16%, respectively), employment at alcohol wholesalers has grown slightly faster by 20%.